May 22, 2008

Adjutant General briefs "State of the State" to National Guard Bureau

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Significant increases in the Virginia Army National Guard's end strength and the successful deployment and return of Soldiers from the Staunton-based 116th Brigade Combat Team were just two of the major accomplishments highlighted during the Virginia Guard's "State of the State" brief to National Guard Bureau.

Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, the Adjutant General of Virginia, delivered the briefing to Maj. Gen. James W. Nuttall, Deputy Director of the Army National Guard, at the National Guard Readiness Center in Alexandria May 21. In addition to reviewing the Virginia Army Guard's major accomplishments over the last year, Newman also thanked Guard Bureau for the resources provided in order to make those accomplishments possible. He also shared some of the Virginia Army Guard's goals and priorities for the upcoming year.

The Virginia Army National Guard recently celebrated having an end-of- month strength of more than 8,000 Soldiers, the first time this has happened in 14 years. This number is a dramatic improvement over the end strength of 6,847 in December 2005.

Newman credited the recruiting and retention success to the resourcing provided by Guard Bureau and focus from senior leaders in the Virginia Guard. Continued funding from Guard Bureau is critical for success, Newman said. He also asked for funding to increase the number of "storefront" recruiting locations from six to nine.

The Virginia Guard's Suicide Prevention Program is one of the top priorities for the coming year, Newman said. He quoted Army statistics stating suicide rates have increased 20 percent since 2006, and 41 percent of those were in the National Guard. Virginia's plan is to have at least one full time Soldier or Airman from each of the Virginia Guard's major subordinate commands attend suicide prevention training, and then bring back that information to share with the leaders of their unit. Newman asked Guard Bureau for funding in order to have a full time position devoted to suicide prevention in order to give the program the attention and priority it deserves.

The Virginia Guard is also looking to improve its infrastructure in Northern Virginia, Newman said. Right now, the Virginia Army National Guard has three locations at Fort Belvoir, Leesburg and Manassas, but would like to increase those locations in order to increase the number of units stationed in the Northern Virginia area.

Additional facilities would increase the Virginia Guard's ability to respond in the event of a threat situation in the National Capital Region, and it would also allow for recruiting more members into the Guard, Newman said. The Northern Virginia area has great potential for recruiting, but there needs to be units where the Soldiers and Airmen can serve.

Newman applauded the efforts of the Virginia National Guard on their efforts to mobilize the 116th BCT for the troop surge in Iraq in 2007, and thanked Guard Bureau for the support they provided. In a span of just over four months, 116th units from around the state were able to mobilize for service in Iraq, and most of them have returned home.

Newman asked Guard bureau for a funding increase for mobilizations scheduled for this year, to include funds to improved dental readiness for deploying Soldiers. Dental readiness is one of the most common issues Soldiers and Airmen encounter as they prepare for mobilization, and additional funding would help increase a unit's ability to prepare the members early in the mobilization process.

 

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